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George Eliot; a Critical Study of Her Life, Writings & Philosophy   By: (1848-1923)

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GEORGE ELIOT: A CRITICAL STUDY OF HER LIFE, WRITINGS AND PHILOSOPHY.

BY

GEORGE WILLIS COOKE

AUTHOR OF "RALPH WALDO EMERSON: HIS LIFE, WRITINGS AND PHILOSOPHY."

1884

PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION.

The publication of a new edition of this work permits me to say that the essay on "The Lady Novelists," quoted in the seventh chapter, was written by George Henry Lewes. Its opinions, however, are substantially those of George Eliot, and they will be found in harmony with her own words. Confessing to the error, I yet venture to let the quotations, and the comments on them, stand as at first made. The three poems mentioned on page 75, were among the latest of the productions of George Eliot's pen.

It has been suggested to me that I have not done perfect justice to George Henry Lewes, especially in what I say of his books on the Spanish drama and the life of Goethe. I have carefully reconsidered what I wrote of him, and find no occasion for any change of judgment, though two or three words might properly give place to others of a more appreciative meaning.

My book has met with much greater praise than I could have expected. Its errors, I have no doubt, are quite numerous enough; and yet I venture to think the main thought of the book is correct.

MARCH, 1884.

CONTENTS.

PREFACE

I. EARLY LIFE

II. TRANSLATOR AND EDITOR

III. MARRIAGE

IV. CAREER AS AN AUTHOR

V. PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS

VI. LITERARY TRAITS AND TENDENCIES

VII. THEORY OF THE NOVEL

VIII. POETIC METHODS

IX. PHILOSOPHIC ATTITUDE

X. DISTINCTIVE TEACHINGS

XI. RELIGIOUS TENDENCIES

XII. ETHICAL SPIRIT

XIII. EARLIER NOVELS

XIV. ROMOLA

XV. FELIX HOLT AND MIDDLEMARCH

XVI. DANIEL DERONDA

XVII. THE SPANISH GYPSY AND OTHER POEMS

XVIII. LATER ESSAYS

XIX. THE ANALYTIC METHOD

XX. THE LIMITATIONS OF HER THOUGHT

XXI. BIBLIOGRAPHY

I.

EARLY LIFE.

The poet and the novelist write largely out of personal experience, and must give expression to the effects of their own history. What they have seen and felt, gives shape and tone to what they write; that which is nearest their own hearts is poured forth in their books. To ignore these influences is to overlook a better part of what they write, and is often to lose the explanation of many features of their work. Shakspere is one of those who are of no time or place, whose words gain no added meaning in view of what he was and how he lived; but it is not so with a great number of the best and most inspiring writers. The era in which they lived, the intellectual surroundings afforded them by their country and generation, the subtle phases of sentiment and aspiration of their immediate time and place, are all essential to a true appreciation of their books. It is so of Goethe, Byron, Shelley, Hugo, Wordsworth, Emerson, and how many more!

As we must know the eighteenth century in its social spirit, literary tendencies, revolutionary aims, romantic aspirations, philosophy and science, to know Goethe, so must we know the nineteenth century in its scientific attainments, agnostic philosophy, realistic spirit and humanitarian aims, in order to know George Eliot. She is a product of her time, as Lessing, Goethe, Wordsworth and Byron were of theirs; a voice to utter its purpose and meaning, as well as a trumpet call to lead it on. As Goethe came after Lessing, Herder and Kant, so George Eliot came after Comte, Mill and Spencer. Her books are to be read in the light of their speculations, and she embodied in literary forms what they uttered as science or philosophy.

Not only is a poet's mind affected by the tone of thought about him, but his personal experiences and surroundings are likely to have a large influence on what he writes. Scott was deeply affected by the romantic atmosphere of his native land. Her birthplace and youthful surroundings had a like effect on George Eliot. The Midland home, the plain village life, the humble, toiling country folk, shaped for her the scenes and characters about which she was to write... Continue reading book >>




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